Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 5, 2016

Lancashire County Proposals Progress On Future Of Countryside Sites

Lancashire County Council lcclogo is taking forward plans to secure the future of countryside sites by finding new organisations to run them. And it has confirmed that waste bins will continue to be maintained while the future of the sites is decided. As part of this year’s budget, the county council took the decision to stop providing the Countryside Service by April 2018, and save £440,000 a year to help deal with the huge pressures on the council’s finances.

Since then officers have been exploring the potential to transfer ownership of places such as country parks and picnic sites to other organisations. Discussions have been held with Lancashire’s 12 district councils, as well as 25 parish and town councils and 19 other organisations, including several charitable trusts. The council has so far received 19 expressions of interest to run part of the service or individual sites. The council has now agreed criteria which will be used to select a preferred partner or partners for the transfer of countryside sites, and is inviting the potential new owners to provide formal details of their proposals.

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone marcus, cabinet member for environment, planning, and cultural services, said “I’m very grateful for the level of interest we’ve received in the future of these sites from other organisations and I hope that they can continue to be well-maintained for people’s enjoyment. We have 93 countryside sites which range from former industrial sites which are now small nature reserves, to big country parks, and I know how much people value them, both for their own enjoyment, and the contribution they make towards preserving our natural environment.

“The last thing we want to do is close or stop maintaining them, but the financial situation facing the county council is hugely challenging as we try to save a further £200m by 2020 as demand for services, particularly adult social care, continues to rise and we expect more cuts in central government funding. I’m hopeful that many of the organisations we’ve had discussions with so far will come forward with firm proposals which will allow us to consider transferring these sites to them for the future benefit of the Lancashire community.”

The application asks those organisations which have submitted an expression of interest to own or manage the countryside sites to outline their aims and objectives, financial resources, skills and experience, and how their proposal will benefit the community. Organisations have 4 weeks to submit their applications from Tuesday 5 July. Meanwhile, the county council has confirmed it will continue to empty all the bins in its countryside sites for the immediate future, and that new arrangements for managing the sites could provide solutions in the longer term.

Officers had been considering the option of removing bins, which allow for disposal of general waste and dog waste, in the coming months to reduce running costs and contribute towards the substantial savings the council needs to make. But the bins will now continue to be maintained while the future of the sites is decided – with the hope that in many cases services such as bins and toilets will continue to be maintained by the sites’ new owners. Beyond 2018, some of the bins will continue to be emptied by the county council as part of maintenance of 13 well-used walking and cycle routes which go through the countryside sites. The council plans to retain ownership of this network of paths which provide important routes for commuters and opportunities for leisure.

West Lancashire sites included are at Bickerstaffe and Mere Brow.


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